New musical pays tribute to the other Gershwin — Ira
By Eva Trieger
SOLANA BEACH, California — Nearly everyone knows a toe tapping, easy to hum along with melody by George Gershwin….but we are not quite as familiar with Ira, brother of the song and dance man. Ira’s life will be the subject of an upcoming musical created by Joe Vass, premiering October 17-20 and running through Nov. 11. This West Coast original will showcase 25 songs, and will only be seen in North Coast Rep’s intimate house.
Ira’s life, though no less important than George’s, speaks to the soul and ideology of a man filled with integrity, insight and humor. He was “moving, fun and entertaining” and Vass reported that his impact was equally important and provocative to musical theater. The challenge for this creator was to tell the story of Ira’s life’s work in a way that would create a Jewish American songbook for our time. This show does just that, and in a way that would honor the sensitive spirit of Ira Gershwin: without foul language, crudity or nudity.
Vass has previously created, written and produced The Soul of Gershwin, which has been performed to a wide variety of audiences, globally. His mentors and inspirations include songwriters Rogers and Hart, Kurt Weill and Thelonius Monk. Other icons that’ve influenced this artist include author Mark Twain and poet Walt Whitman. “Anything speaks to me that’s great. If it has beauty, strength and passion” it captures Vass’s interest.
The Gershwins are a natural interest for Vass, who is a musician himself. As the youngest of five brothers, Vass vowed to his parents that if they paid for piano lessons, he’d practice. Well, he did them proud, and has used his lessons to advance his career. When asked if a musical gene is inherited, Vass confided that while he heard a lot of music growing up, he did not have a number of musical relatives save an operatic aunt.
Vass states that those who attend Words By will “not listen to the songs the same way after the show” and I can’t wait to hear what he means!
Trieger is a San Diego-based freelance writer who specializes in the arts. She may be contacted at email@example.com
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